Saturday, May 31, 2008

Timothy Leary Lives On

The great Timothy Leary died 12 years ago today.

Timothy Francis Leary (October 22, 1920 – May 31, 1996) was an American writer, psychologist, futurist, modern pioneer and advocate of psychedelic drug research and use, and one of the first people whose remains have been sent into space. An icon of 1960s counterculture, Leary is most famous as a proponent of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of LSD. He coined and popularized the catch phrase "Turn on, tune in, drop out."

Rightly called the Galileo of Consciousness, he went public with his observations of the mind made with psychedelic mindscopes and helped initiate a renaissance which is still only beginning to elaborate itself.

"Think for yourself and question authority." ~ Timothy Leary

"You're only as young as the last time you changed your mind." ~ Timothy Leary

"Acid is not for every brain... Only the healthy, happy, wholesome, handsome, hopeful, humorous, high-velocity should seek these experiences. This elitism is totally self-determined. Unless you are self-confident, self-directed, self-selected, please abstain." ~ Timothy Leary

Wikipedia: Timothy Leary

The Vaults of Erowid: Timothy Leary

Robert Anton Wilson: Timothy Leary's Eight Circuits of Consciousness

BBC Documentary: Timothy Leary - The Man Who Turned On America

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Middle School Students ARRESTED For Peaceful Sit-In Protesting Dress Code

Four middle school students in Vancouver, Washington, were arrested for leading protests against a new school dress code.

Doesn't calling the cops seem a little extreme for a peaceful sit-in?

Hey, Principal Mike Stromme: Shouldn't your name be Mike Stormtrooper? Sieg heil, motherfucker!

So much for the freedom to speak out! So much for the freedom to be different.

Apparently, if you're a Goth or an Emo student at this school, you aren't as equal as everyone else.

Guess they're trying to teach 'em early these days what happens when you question authority. Be a mindless conformist or be arrested! Just training them for the future of Bush/McCain America, where protesters will be declared enemy combatants and locked in cages.

My wife, a former middle-school teacher, can't believe the school administration is so clueless as to throw away this opportunity for a valuable, real-life civics lesson -- to let these kids learn about the value of nonviolent civil protest, mutual respect, and earnest negotiation to come to a compromise. Spontaneous teaching moments such as these are what GOOD teachers hope and live for. Instead, Principal Stormtrooper apparently prefers to impart the lesson "Might is right" to these malleable young minds.

The crucial question is, are we trying to teach these kids how to be compliant, submissive drones? Or are we trying to truly educate them by teaching them to think for themselves?

Principal Mike Stormtrooper, I have an assignment for you. You, sir, really need to read Thoreau's Civil Disobedience...

Class dismissed!


Clark County, Washington newspaper The Columbian (love that name!) filed this report:

School fashion protest leads to arrests

Tuesday, May 27, 2008
By ISOLDE RAFTERY, Columbian staff writer

Students at McLoughlin Middle School are learning that civil disobedience comes at a cost.

In the past two weeks, four eighth-grade boys have been arrested and charged with misdemeanors for leading protests against the school’s dress code. About 20 more students have been suspended.

Parents of those students are wondering whether this tough-love approach has gone too far — the dress code, after all, was implemented to curb bad behavior.

Amy Proffer, whose son, Joey, was among those arrested, said she was upset that the principal allowed police to question her 14-year-old son without calling her.

“I was concerned that the officer was taking a statement from my child,” Proffer said. “They told me that they have a right to question him without a parent because he’s over the age of 12.”

The dress code, dubbed “Mac attire,” was implemented at the start of the school year after a parent vote of approval. Proffer voted against it.

Principal Rich Reeves referred reporter calls to Vancouver Public Schools spokeswoman Kris Sork, who said the district stands by Reeves’ decision to call the police.

“I don’t dare talk about the specific case,” Sork said, citing educational privacy laws. “It was investigated by Mike Stromme (director of secondary education), who found that it was all absolutely appropriate.”

Events Unfold

The frustration over Mac attire took root the afternoon before the lunch protest, at a Fort Vancouver High School track meet.

According to student and police accounts, several eighth-graders were playing in the grass, turning somersaults and using crass language when an assistant principal from their school approached. She told them to knock it off.

The next morning, one of the boys received a letter saying he wouldn’t be allowed to partake in any more after-school functions through the end of the school year.

That boy, Sam Ruble, said he nearly started crying. He’s a wiry boy with long side bangs and a flair for the dramatic. Sam, 14, said that he was upset because his alternative rock band had been planning to perform after school next month.

The next day at lunch, the boys fumed. They were angry at administrators about their punishment, and that gave way to conversations about the dress code, which they said crimps their style.

By the end of the lunch period, a decision had been made: They would protest the dress code.

“What made us angry at first was barely a protestable issue,” Sam said. “But we realized that many people understand the dress code cause, and we decided that we were long overdue for a dress code protest.”

They wanted to show off their “randomness,” student Desirea Allen said later. They wanted to draw on their jeans and wear the colors of their choice. They acknowledge that they’ve been able to show off their personalities in spite of the dress code, which allows them to dye their hair any color and write on their shoes.

They believed they would be allowed to protest: Desirea, 13, had checked her student handbook, which states students may express themselves so long as it’s “not disruptive to other individuals or to the educational process.”

Their ranks grew to about 20 students.

Most involved call their style “emo” or “goth,” a look that tends toward black jeans and thick eyeliner.

According to students, Principal Reeves and the assistant principals asked the students to go to their fourth-period classes. They refused.

The conversation between adults and students was light-hearted, the students said, with adults making jokes about the situation.

Sam and Joey said they were surprised when 20 minutes into their impromptu sit-in, Reeves called police.

Vancouver police Officer Julie Carpenter, who is stationed at Fort Vancouver High School, arrived with backup.

Four officers escorted the students into the library and arrested the four boys, who were later released to their parents. They were suspended for the week; 13 other students were suspended for shorter periods, according to the district.

The four boys were referred to the juvenile prosecutor’s office on two potential charges:noncompliance with a school official and disruption of school activity. There was no report of violence, perceived or threatened.

“They were protesting the dress code, but the charges don’t have to do with the dress code,” Vancouver police spokeswoman Kim Kapp said. “It was the disruption of school activities.”

So what did the students wish had happened?

“They should have just listened to us,” Sam said.

Dress Code Praised

Days before the protests started, Principal Reeves told school board members that students and teachers are pleased with the results of the dress code.

Kapp said her officers, too, say students are causing fewer problems.

“(Officer Carpenter) did share with me that the number of requests has declined dramatically in her opinion since they instituted the dress code,” Kapp said. “She said she has felt that she’s responded less to that particular middle school since the dress code went into affect.”

The students said discipline issues have decreased because the students who caused problems have moved on to Fort Vancouver, McLoughlin’s feeder high school.

They said that the 50-student fight that broke out at Fort Vancouver High School last fall was caused by those same students. That fight led the district to pay $100,000 this year to station Carpenter at the high school full time.

But ultimately, for the students, the issue is more about feeling disrespected than about Mac attire. After all, the students have only one more month to go before summer, when they can wear whatever they want.

Sam said: “Teachers have been calling us the troublemakers. Mac attire was supposed to create unity, but all we’ve gotten is more trouble because we choose gray and black.”

“Yeah,” Desirea said. “Just because we’re strange doesn’t mean we’re addicted to drugs.”

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pattie Boyd's Long Strange Harrison Clapton Trip

Morning DJ Marty Riemer, on Seattle radio station The Mountain interviewed Pattie Boyd (Harrison Clapton) on the air this morning; she's promoting her new biography, Wonderful Tonight...

(Pattie is the lady who inspired both "Layla," which Eric Clapton used to steal her away from George Harrison, and "Wonderful Tonight," which Eric wrote about their life together. Harrison wrote "Isn't It A Pity" about their relationship falling apart.)

She told an amusing tale about the first time she and George Harrison took LSD. They were at a 1965 dinner party at the home of the Beatles' dentist and pal Dr. Robert, and when they got ready to depart, Dr. Robert told them they couldn't go home -- he'd dosed them unawares (as well as John and Cynthia Lennon) with LSD sugarcubes in their coffee.

Harrison decided he was going home anyway, but as the powerful psychedelic did its magic in their craniums, Pattie said George drove like 5 miles an hour all the way back to their country home, turning what should have been a one-hour trip into an hours-long odyssey. Meanwhile, with the acid lasting eight hours, LSD novice Pattie throught she'd "never be the same again."

Both Harrison and Lennon later pointed to the acid trip as a turning point in their lives. Ringo also tried LSD that summer, but Paul held out for about another year, until 1966, before taking his own magical mystery tour.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fox News Calls Obama 'Osama,' Laughs About Killing Them Both

While commenting on Hillary's RFK gaffe, Liz Trotta on Fox News Channel first referred to Barack Obama as "Osama" and then laughed that they should both be killed.

TROTTA: And now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that sombody knock off Osama — Obama. Well, both, if we could.

HOST: Talk about how you really feel.

Liz Trotta is an employee of Fox News and is former New York bureau chief for The Washington Times.

Fox News is obviously still upholding its "high journalistic standards"... Can you say, "shill for the Republican Party"? I thought you could.

Right-wing pundits on Fox News and other corporate shill broadcast outlets have regularly called Sen. Barack Obama by the name "Osama" in a systematic propaganda campaign to convince the American public that the liberal Democratic senator and presidential candidate is somehow connected to terrorists.

In a similar vein and for identical reasons, reactionary right-wingers love the fact that Obama's middle name is "Hussein," and they often call him that to evoke the visceral fear and loathing response by which they are so prone to control the masses.

As if she were providing a ghoulish punchline to that long-running propaganda campaign, Trotta made it clear that the conclusions that Fox's right-skewed viewers should draw were (1) that Sen. Obama and Osama bin Laden are basically equivalent; and (2) they both deserve to be assassinated.

An abysmal new low, even for "Faux" News.

The Battle In Seattle: Never Surrender, Never Forget

Seattle Police officer fires plastic pellets at point blank range into a group of demonstrators attempting to prohibit access to the WTO at the Washington State Convention Center Nov. 30, 1999. (Paul Joseph Brown/Seattle Post-Intelligencer)

By any objective account, the protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle in 1999 were one of the most significant political statements in the last three decades.

It's important not to forget such a pivotal event, even though almost 10 years have passed. What happened in Seattle in 1999 amounted to a police riot of the kind which at that time hadn't been seen on American streets in more than 30 years -- since the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, when overzealous police brutalized Vietnam War protesters.

Battle In Seattle, the just-released fictionalized movie account of the Seattle protests, will go a long way toward keeping the memory of the event alive. And one hopes it will bring renewed attention to the thousands of hours of actual video and photographic documentation of what truly went down in the streets of Seattle back in '99.

It's the same old story of police over-response and gratuitous violence, followed by crowd response, with events then spiraling out of control. And sadly, a certain segment of the populace seems eternally willing to accept the same old official excuses: "We had to control the crowd"; "Protesters instigated the violence"; "Police were assaulted."

The protesters who were in the streets at the time can tell you a different story, if you care to hear it. Along with seasoned activists, many of the protesters were kids as young as high school age. Their brutalization at the hands (and nightsticks and plastic-pellet-firing guns) of the Seattle Police Department was a grim awakening to the realities of social control and suppression of dissent in modern day America.

"There were a few dozen self labeled anarchists who broke a few windows. More would have been broken if protesters hadn't intervened. The cops had been using military weapons on nonviolent protesters for hours before those windows were broken. I was in the middle of it all the entire week and if anything was thrown at the police it was in response to being assaulted by them. Police officers think they can use military weapons on citizens with impunity. And when, on the rare occasion, they are held accountable they whine and lie," reported a protester who was on the scene.

"If the police didn't do anything wrong why has the city had to pay out millions in claims for unlawful arrests and assaults on citizens? The SPD was out of control and unprofessional at that event. Having grown accustomed to being able to abuse citizens with impunity over the years and armed with all those shiny new military weapons it is no surprise the SPD would violently put down an uprising against the state, i.e. corporate power -- even a nonviolent uprising."

Another witness tells me: "I saw three teenaged girls -- they couldn't have been much more than 14 years old -- who were sitting in the street, holding hands and singing, high on the idea of political activism. Some policemen came up and ordered them to clear the street. The girls said, 'No, we're protesting.' And without further ado, the cops got out their billyclubs and started beating these young girls savagely."

My friend and fellow blogger James Lovette-Black of San Francisco offers an eloquent eyewitness account of the protest. "I witnessed lines of riot police with no identification badges marching lock step, looking like the storm-troopers from Star Wars, advancing on peaceful protesters, firing tear-gas canisters and rubber bullets on demonstrators with no provocation," James writes. "The story was that because advanced intelligence had freaked out the Seattle PD, they had consulted with European police regarding riot gear and it certainly looked as if they had done so. I was astonished to witness this on American soil."

"I was there and was tear-gassed by the cops in 1999," James told me. "I went because I was compelled to do so and felt like I had to make a stand against the WTO, along with everyone else going to Seattle. The story is that the Seattle PD used so much tear gas that they ran out of it and began to use military CS-gas. Concussion grenades and flash bombs were used against people peacefully protesting all over the downtown. I personally witnessed numerous injuries from these devices that are meant to scare the living HELL out of you, trigger a panic response and make you run, and that are so loud they can actually knock you out if you are close enough to them.

"At one point, I looked out over the beautiful city of Seattle and could see for about a mile into the downtown: literally every intersection was blockaded by protesters as far as the eye could see, all the way to the very core of Seattle. I witnessed a cop on a motorcycle trying to run over a guy's leg, simply because he was blockading our group's intersection by sitting down with others, chain-linked through pipes with a group of other protesters. What scared the hell out of the cops was that this was such a massive and well-executed protest that it freaked them out," James said.

"After being tear-gassed and treated by a First Responder, I discovered that the cops were actually going after the First Responders - who were identified by arm bands for easy location by the injured - and arresting them, so that we could not help and support people. I thought, not on my watch! I take the work of helping and healing seriously, having been an RN for 30 years. So, I became a First-Responder to fill the ranks of those who were literally being snatched from the streets by the cops. We used a solution to remove tear gas from the faces and eyes of protesters and bystanders caught up in the police violence.

"Because it became a cat-and-mouse situation in the downtown, some of us took refuge in the lower level of Pike's Place Market," James remembers. "A security guard kept watch for us and I will never forget him. He came down after about 20-30 minutes to tell us that the cops were on their way, so we had to evacuate our injured. One of the injured protesters was a young Canadian woman who was just a few feet away from one of the flash bomb-concussion grenades when it went off and she blacked out, pitched forward, and fell face down on her nose. We had to run to avoid capture, taking our wounded with us.

"All of this happened on American soil and was perpetrated by a city government in league with transnational corporate powers against Americans and visitors who came to actively and peacefully dissent. I was there, it was real, and it was incredible," James concluded.

It's important to remember these protests happened almost two years before 9/11/2001. And what that sadly means is that, with the "Patriot Act" and related "anti-terrorist" legislation backed by the Bush administration and passed by a gutless Congress, the deck is now stacked even MORE heavily against those who dare to speak out against the corporate monied interests represented by the WTO.

More on the movie, from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

My Stroke Of Insight (Jill Bolte Taylor)

This is one of the most inspiring talks I've seen/heard in a long, long time.

Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had a stroke which gave her new insights into the fascinating left brain/right brain nature of human consciousness. She is truly a remarkable and inspiring woman.

I implore you to watch and truly listen. It is 18 of the best minutes you'll ever spend in your life. I mean that.

About this talk

Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one. An astonishing story.

About this speaker

One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor's brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke.

She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness ...

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before.

In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right. From her home base in Indiana, she now travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the "Singin' Scientist."

"How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I've gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career." ~ Jill Bolte Taylor

Jill Bolte Taylor: The Singin' Scientist

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Are You A Medical Marijuana Patient In Washington? The Cops Want To Be In Charge Of Your Medical Care

Muraco Kyashna-Tocha, 48, of Seattle, has grown marijuana legally since 1999. Kyashna-Tocha has had five neck and back surgeries and said that using marijuana manages her pain enough so she can engage in daily life. Photo by Chris Joseph Taylor/The Seattle Times

Medical marijuana activist Steve Sarich of CannaCare

Pot-phobic cops are on the verge of eviscerating Washington's medical marijuana law, rendering the law almost useless in protecting the sick and dying patients who use physician-approved cannabis to relieve their suffering.

Some of us had hoped that the DOH's medical-science-based recommendations would be the sole factor in determining permissible amounts of marijuana. But in an act of startling political cowardice -- and in what appears to be a legally questionable move -- Gov. Christine Gregoire appears to be caving to political pressure from law enforcement.

Medical science should have the last word on medical treatments, period. Medical marijuana is legal in the state of Washington. Why then, does law enforcement seem to have veto power over the Department of Health?

Law enforcement officials seem unwilling to give up the kind of power they've enjoyed over medical marijuana users. They obviously have a big problem with pot and with people who smoke it -- even under the advice of a physician.

This type of antiquated, narrow-minded, judgmental moralism is especially unattractive when it is directed at the sick and dying.

It seems Gov. Gregoire has chosen what she believes is politically expedient over the welfare of suffering patients. She has chosen to appease law enforcement's irrational distaste for, and superstitious fear of, marijuana -- even if that means people who are already have enough to worry about with their health have to also worry about having their doors kicked in by heavily armed, gung-ho narcotics units.

Last year, when the Washington Legislature mandated that by July 1, 2008, the Department of Health (DOH) would define what constitutes a "60-day supply" under the state's medical marijuana law, four workshops were held at multiple locations statewide to solicit input from patients, caregivers, doctors, and law enforcement. Hundreds of people offered their input, DOH officials studied the results and made their recommendations, and recently, after a Freedom of Information request from CannaCare activist Steve Sarich, those numbers became public.

The Department of Health recommended that patients (who must have "terminal or debilitating conditions" and a physician's recommendation to qualify) or their caregivers be allowed to possess up to 35 ounces of marijuana and bed allowed a plant-growing area of 100 square feet.

These guidelines are based on what is already a compromise between medical science and law enforcement concerns. A primary objective was to end the conflict between medical marijuana patients and over-zealous law enforcement officials, who persisted in arresting many patients despite their supposed protection under the law.

And according to medical cannabis researcher Sunil Aggarwal of the University of Washington medical school, even that amount is actually too low. Aggarwal says the DOH used an incorrect multiplier. Because "oral administration" (eating) of marijuana is less efficient than smoking, the limit should be 71 ounces, not 35 ounces, for a 60-day supply, Aggarwal said.

The 35-ounce amount is more than permitted in some places where medical marijuana is legal, but less than in others. Oregon allows 24 ounces of usable marijuana and six mature plants, while limits in California counties and cities range from 8 ounces to 3 pounds in Humboldt, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties, the Health Department's memo said.

Meanwhile, despite the fact they've been demanding that the state define the limits, ("We don't care what the number is, just give us a number"), law enforcement officials now say they are unhappy with the DOH recommendations, and want to define the limits themselves.

According to activist Sarich, Gov. Gregoire released the DOH recommendations to law enforcement before their public release. "Law enforcement had a fit and the whole hearing process came to a dead stop," Sarich said.

Sarich said the Governor then had DOH Secretary Mary Selecky come up with a plan to have a secret meeting including members of the law enforcement community. "Bill White, the DOH deputy director, informed me of this meeting and told me that Karen Jensen was in charge of organizing this meeting," Sarich said. "I spoke with Ms. Jensen and she confirmed that she was in charge of scheduling this meeting. She further informed me that this would be a closed meeting and that I was not invited. Mr. White told me that this meeting was being called in an 'attempt to bring patients and law enforcement closer together on the numbers'; Ms. Jensen confirmed this. Mr. White informed me that law enforcement was looking for 'an amount in the range of 1-3 ounces.' This is NOT up to law enforcement. This is not supposed to be a negotiation," Sarich said.

"The 35 ounces was not the number patients came up with. This was the number that the DOH came up with after holding four workshops and considering all of the medical and scientific evidence. This was exactly what they were instructed to do by the Legislature.

"This amounts to an illegal attempt to circumvent and subvert the legislative hearing process," Sarich said. "Robin Burkhart is in charge of scheduling hearings at the DOH and she confirmed to me that no hearing has been scheduled on the '60 day supply' issue. No one has even discussed it with her... This attempt by the Governor to derail the legislative process, and calling a closed door meeting, must be stopped. The legal process calls for the DOH to release their findings to the public and hold a public hearing on their proposed numbers. The Governor, through Mary Selecky, has stopped that legal process and we must ALL take the appropriate actions to see to it that the legislative process is not compromised."

When pressed by Seattle Times health reporter Carol Ostrum, law enforcement officials admitted that most would define the 60-day amount at three ounces; many would set it even lower.

Remember, law enforcement until now has been saying "let the Health Department set the number." But apparently, that's only workable if the DOH sets the number so low that law enforcement can keep busting and harassing patients.

Three ounces is NOT by any realistic measure a "60-day supply" for a medical marijuana user with even moderate needs. Many physicians, including my own, recommend 24 ounces as a 60-day supply, and for those patients who eat rather than smoke their medicine, the numbers are much higher.

In Ostrom's news story, she regrettably gives cops the last word, leaving Joe Sixpack with the idea that these disreputable medical marijuana patients are really just drug dealers in disguise.

The Seattle Times' Ostrum quotes a law enforcement officer as saying, "We don't want folks who are involved in the sale of drugs to be able to hide behind the medical-marijuana law." That argument is a complete red herring; it's as if the officer has never even read Washington's medical marijuana law, which is one of the strictest in the nation. Medical marijuana patients in the state of Washington must be very, very sick to qualify ("terminal or debilitating condition"), and must have a physician's recommendation.

To accuse these people of being "drug dealers" because they want to be able to keep an adequate supply of medicine on hand -- without having to worry about a SWAT unit invading their home -- is just about as low as you can go.

Can you see the stage being set for kicking in the doors of even more sick patients? Just call them "drug dealers" and throw them in jail. Nice work, Gov. Gregoire.

Now I can understand Steve Sarich's frustration when I talked to him at the May 3 Marijuana March in Seattle -- Sarich was sporting an "Anybody But Gregoire" button.

But to all appearances, medical marijuana patients don't have a better choice this fall.

Patients have seemingly been put in the position of choosing between "bad" (re-electing Gov. Gregoire) and "worse" (voting for her Republican rival, Dino Rossi, this November).

(If anyone has any indication from Dino Rossi's camp that he'd support the rights of medical marijuana patients, I'd be delighted if you could prove me wrong.)

Postscript: Gov. Gregoire discussed the DOH recommendations and medical marijuana limits with public radio station KUOW on May 22. You can hear her comments here.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Happy Birthday To Pete Townshend And Joey Ramone

Pete Townshend of the Who is 63 today.

Joey Ramone would have been 57 (RIP).

Iraq Vet Suicides May Exceed Combat Deaths; V.A. Admits Lying About Severity Of The Problem

The Department of Veterans Affairs lied to Congress about the number of veterans who have tried to kill themselves, according to Sen. Patty Murray, who cited internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year while the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.

Some experts now predict that suicide deaths among Iraq veterans will exceed the number of Iraq combat deaths.

“The suicide rate is a red alarm bell to all of us,” the Washington state Democrat said. Murray added that the VA’s mental health programs are overwhelmed by Iraq and Afghanistan veterans even as the department seeks to downplay the situation.

“We are not your enemy, we are your support team, and unless we get accurate information we can’t be there to do our jobs,” Murray said.

VA deputy secretary Gordon Mansfield acknowledged the numbers discrepancy and apologized during a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing.

But Murray remained skeptical, saying the VA has shown a pattern of misleading Congress when it comes to the increasing number of soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan seeking help and putting a strain on Defense Department and VA facilities and programs.

“I used to teach preschool, and when you bring up a 3-year-old and tell them they have to stop lying, they understand the consequences,” Murray said. “The VA doesn’t. They need to stop hiding the fact this war is costing us in so many ways.”

The existence of the e-mails, uncovered as part of a class-action lawsuit filed against the VA in San Francisco, was first reported in April by CBS News.

“Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1,000 suicide attempts per month among the veterans we see in our medical facilities,” Katz wrote in a Feb. 13 email to Ev Chasen, the department’s communication director. “Is this something we should (carefully) address ourselves in some sort of release before someone stumbles on it?”

Chasen responded: “I think this is something we should discuss among ourselves, before issuing a press release. Is the fact we are stopping them good news, or is the sheer number bad news? And is this more than we have ever seen before?”

CBS reported that the VA earlier had provided the network with false data showing only 790 attempted suicides in all of 2007.

Murray said she was “angry and upset” with the VA. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., said he too was troubled.

“How do we trust what you are saying when every time we turn around we find out that what you are saying publicly is different from what you are saying privately?” Murray asked Mansfield. “How can we trust what you are saying today?”

Mansfield responded that the situation was unfortunate and did not “send the right message” to Congress or the public.

Murray pointed to a RAND Corp. study released last week that showed 320,000 troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan have traumatic brain injury and 300,000 troops have post traumatic stress disorder or major depression.

Of those with PTSD or depression, Murray said, only half sought treatment and only half of those have received treatment that was “minimally” adequate.

“I think we ought to be worried,” Murray said, adding that as with Vietnam-era veterans, some of the violent symptoms might not show up for years.

“They can be walking time bombs for decades,” Murray said. “I hope everyone in the VA understands this.”

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Veterans Not Welcome In This Armed Forces Day Parade -- Unless They Support Bush's Lies About Iraq

In the Kitsap County town of Bremerton, Washington, simply being a veteran of the armed forces doesn't mean you get to march in the Armed Forces Day Parade. You'd better support Bush's lies about the war in Iraq if you want to participate -- else, forget it!

Hey, Bremerton city officials -- how's the view with your head up your ass?

Hmmm... does being a veteran now mean you can only have one political opinion? Wait a minute... I thought it was freedom they were fighting for?!

Why don't you just be honest and put up a big "Republicans Only" sign?

Shame on you. And big kudos to KOMO 4's Ken Schram for calling you on your bullshit!

Thursday, May 15, 2008


This 2007 TV documentary from the History Channel has many flaws, the greatest of which is allowing overarching, borderline ridiculous right-wing condemnations of hippie culture to remain unchallenged, but still it fascinates as a glimpse at the drug-fueled, youth-driven counterculture of the late 1960s.

Too much time, unfortunately, is wasted on sensationalist, irrelevant side-stories and not enough is spent on the substantive contributions of the hippie aesthetic to the culture at large. There are also a few glaring historical accuracies; for example, one could easily conclude from the film that the Vietnam War ended after 1969 -- which would certainly come as a surprise to the soldiers who served there from 1970-1973.

It's particularly revealing that the original plan was to use Barry Miles' popular coffee table book, Hippie to act as the base for the 90-minute documentary. Miles' book is filled with visual images of hippie culture including the music, fashion and art of the time. But as writer Kleinman says, the History Channel didn't want to focus on a purely positive view of the hippie culture. "I said the big thing was music. They told me the audience wasn't into music. The audience doesn't like hippies very much," said Kleinman.

Hmm... "The audience"? Of whom, exactly, was the History Channel speaking? Is this "the audience" that, even as the film admits, has supported hippie-related music, books, clothing and films for 40+ years now? Or maybe by "the audience" the History Channel means "our right-wing corporate sponsors"? You make the call.

But for all its shortcomings, at least the film, at its end, correctly, if only briefly, touches upon some of the many lasting contributions of the hippie ethos to the culture at large; these include the consciousness movement, the environmental movement, and the computer/technological revolution which led to the democratization of information by the Internet. The History of "Hippies" Discussion Boards: The Hippie Legacy

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NYPD Lies, Cheats, Scams To Arrest Marijuana Smokers

A woman smokes a marijuana cigarette at a pro-cannabis demonstration and march May 4, 2002 in New York City. In New York the pro-cannabis movement has been galvanized by current Mayor Michael Bloomberg's assertion that he had smoked marijuana and 'liked it'. Unless you are the Mayor, however, smoking pot in New York City can get you in a lot of trouble -- thanks to the Mayor's discriminatory policies and a lying police force

NYC's Staggering Arrest Rate For Pot Achieved By Police Deception and Scams

By Steven Wishnia, AlterNet. Posted May 9, 2008

New study says New York's cannabis crackdown is both racist and fraudulent -- and that more have been arrested under Bloomberg than Giuliani

New York City has been the pot-bust capital of the world for a decade, since Rudolph Giuliani's decision to make public toking a top police priority. A new study sponsored by the New York Civil Liberties Union says the city's cannabis crackdown is both racist and fraudulent.

New York police have arrested almost 400,000 people for misdemeanor marijuana possession in the last decade. Last year, there were 39,700 such arrests. The vast majority of those seized have been black and Latino men, most under 25. And according to the NYCLU study, released last week, thousands of them are the victims of police scams, falsely charged with possession of marijuana "burning or open to public view."

"We are confident in estimating that about two-thirds to three-quarters of the people arrested were not smoking marijuana," the study says. "Usually they were doing their utmost to keep their marijuana concealed, generally deep inside their clothing." The authors, sociologist Harry Levine of Queens College and activist Deborah Peterson-Small of the organization Break The Chains, say that conclusion is "based on the experience of legal aid and public-defender attorneys who have handled thousands of these cases, along with that of the police officers and arrestees we interviewed."

New York State decriminalized marijuana in 1977. That reduced possession of less than 25 grams is a violation, carrying a $100 fine and no criminal record. But smoking or possession in public is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months in jail. So in order to get around the constitutional restrictions on searches and find a valid reason to make an arrest, police have to use deception.

A typical ruse is for police to stop someone near a suspected marijuana-sales site and tell them something along the lines of "We saw you coming out of the weed spot. If you have anything on you that you're not supposed to have, give it to me and all I'll give you is a ticket." If the suspect falls for the ruse and hands over his marijuana, he is then arrested for displaying it in public view. Though most people charged with misdemeanor pot possession do not receive jail sentences, they often have to spend up to 24 hours in jail before arraignment, and they acquire a permanent arrest record.

Police and defenders of the crackdown say that making large numbers of arrests for minor offenses has reduced major crimes. Other benefits include that it's an easy way for police supervisors to show their precincts' productivity, it's an easy way for individual officers to get overtime-rookie New York cops get paid only $25,000 a year, so "collars for dollars" augment that -- and it keeps a reserve of officers occupied.

Peterson-Small states bluntly that the crackdown is "racist," a legacy of the Giuliani principles that "we will tame New York by bringing the black and brown people under control" and "no offense is too petty." Of the people arrested for misdemeanor pot possession from 1997 through 2006, five out of six were black or Latino, in a city that is almost half white and Asian. Nine out of ten were male, and most were aged 16 to 25. And over the years, the focus has shifted from Midtown Manhattan and Greenwich Village to outlying black and Latino areas. The police precincts in upper Manhattan's Washington Heights, the west Bronx, Jamaica and St. Albans in southeastern Queens, and the "Black Brooklyn" neighborhoods of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville, and East New York regularly turn in more than 1,000 petty pot busts a year each. Though there is no evidence that black New Yorkers smoke more pot than white ones -- nationally, the rate of use among young adults is slightly higher for whites, at least according to government surveys -- the city's marijuana-arrest rate for blacks is more than five times what it is for whites.

Another worry is that the arrests tag thousands of young black and Latino men as criminals. The study terms the crackdown "Head Start for prison and unemployment." The Head Start preschool program, it notes, intends to "familiarize and socialize young children in the routines and expectations of school systems"; the marijuana-arrest program works to "familiarize, socialize, and prepare disadvantaged black and Latino teenagers and young adults from poor neighborhoods for the routines and expectations of the police, court, jail, and prison system."

The study also calls the policy a waste of money -- at an estimated $1,500 to $2,500 per arrest, it cost the city $60 to $100 million last year, at a time when Mayor Michael Bloomberg is slashing the city budget and closing libraries on weekends. Peterson-Small adds that it violates the spirit of the state's decriminalization law. The ban on public smoking, she says, was originally intended to apply only to people creating a public nuisance, not to someone lighting up discreetly "in the alley behind a jazz club."

Though the city's cannabis crackdown is Rudolph Giuliani's legacy, Bloomberg has continued it. Bloomberg has a reputation as a moderate, as less racist and draconian than Giuliani, and he famously declared "You bet I did -- and I enjoyed it" when asked if he had ever smoked pot. But in his first six years in office, more people have been arrested for misdemeanor possession than in Giuliani's entire eight-year regime.

Steven Wishnia is the author of "Exit 25 Utopia," "The Cannabis Companion" and "Invincible Coney Island." He lives in New York.

The original story on AlterNet:

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rare Neil Young Interview Footage Unearthed From 1986

My continuing explorations of a pile of VHS Hi-Fi videotapes I recorded back in the late 1980s has turned up another real gem: Rare 1986 interview footage with hippie folk-rock iconoclast Neil Young.

Neil Young, in 1986, was at one of many (usually self-created) "weird spots" in his long and storied career. He was just coming off a strange three-album run which had resulted in his actually being sued by Geffen, his record company, for musical output "uncharacteristic of Neil Young," as hard as it may be to wrap your mind around that.

In 1983, Neil had become entranced with the possibilities of computer/electronic alteration/enhancement of his music; the result of that particular flirtation was the Kraftwerk-esque Trans album, heavy on the vocoder and light on the folkishness. Not surprisingly, Trans left many longtime Neil fans mystified.

Later that same year, matters were further muddled when Neil didn't just return to the basics: He went all the way back to 1950s-style rock and roll for the Everybody's Rockin' LP, which was credited to "Neil and the Shocking Pinks." While Everybody's Rockin' was actually quite catchy, especially on fun tunes like "Betty Lou's Got A New Pair Of Shoes," it served to further confuse Young's folk-rock fan base.

When Neil's next offering, 1985's Old Ways, was more a traditional country album than anyone familiar with his previous output might have predicted, the suits at Geffen had had enough. Artistic vision be damned, they must have been thinking; we signed the guy who wrote "Cinnamon Girl" and "Heart Of Gold," and instead he gives us computer music, 50s doo-wop, then Nashville-style twang?

So they took ol' Neil to court, and tried to FORCE him to "act right." That, of course, didn't set very well with Neil, and when he DID decide he wanted to rock again, even that effort -- 1986's Landing On Water -- was lambasted by the critics of the time for its prominent synthesizers and loud drums, and by many modern Neil-watchers for its "80s production values."

Young wouldn't be fully returning to critical favor until a few more albums down the road, 1989's Freedom with its monster anthem "Rockin' In The Free World". But those of us who love him embrace the entire catalog, and know that Neil's just gotta be Neil...

The interview footage was taped from the short-lived "Rock'N'Roll Evening News" program and was conducted by Adrienne Meltzer. Enjoy!

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Save The Government Some Trouble - Spy On Yourself!

Hasan Alahi, a university professor and conceptual artist, is an American citizen. But Alahi was detained at a Detroit airport by INS personnel in June 2002 and asked his whereabouts around 9-11-01, to all appearances deciding he was a "terror suspect" based on nothing more than his ethnicity.

Alahi decided to save the government some trouble by spying on himself. He now constantly updates the FBI on his whereabouts and activities, and advises everyone else to do so.

Alahi's self-surveillance extends right down to the meals he eats and the bathrooms he uses, all documented at Brilliant!

He was interviewed by Stephen Colbert on the May 7, 2008 episode of The Colbert Report.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Marijuana March: Keeping The Fire Of Pot Reform Burning In Seattle

The Seattle Liberate Marijuana March was quite a success, especially considering the rainy weather, with an initial turnout estimated at around 400 people at Volunteer Park, which grew all along the march route, and the Westlake Park crowd estimated at between 700 and 1,000 people for the finale. Big kudos to Joanna McKee, Martin Martinez, and Vivian McPeak for helping to make this thing happen.

The day began at noon in Volunteer Park, with the assembled throng marching and chanting through downtown Seattle (to the delighted thumbs-up, smiles and honking car horns of many passersby), and ended up at Westlake Park for speeches and musical performances.

Among the highlights of the day for me were rousing addresses by the first man who ever mounted a successful medical necessity marijuana defense in Washington, Martin Martinez of, and famed Seattle attorney and activist Douglas Hiatt, who may well be the hardest working man in the medical marijuana movement.

A recurring theme throughout the day was the memory of musician Tim Garon and his brave fight for life after being denied a liver transplant due to his legal, physician-approved use of medical marijuana. Tim's presence was felt most acutely when Hiatt, who represented him, gave one of the most moving and impassioned speeches of the day centering on Garon's struggle against the forces of ignorance and anti-marijuana prejudice.

Hiatt said Garon made him promise that he'd do all he could to prevent such a thing from happening to anyone else -- and he exhorted the crowd: "Help me keep my promise to Tim Garon."

Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna says I can't have my legal medicine until I'm off probation or he'll put me in a cage, but lemme tell ya: it sure smelled good in Volunteer Park, along the entire march route, and at Westlake for the finale. You can bet I'm looking forward to October when I can finally do something effective about this constant nausea.

Friday, May 2, 2008

March For Marijuana Freedom May 3, 2008

I'm gonna be there! So should you!

If you live in the Seattle area:

Marijuana patients are leading the protests on May 3.

See you at: Seattle's Volunteer Park, Noon, Saturday, May 3, 2008.

March: 1:00 PM Broadway to Pine Street, and on to Westlake Park Downtown.

Rally: Westlake Center Park from 2:00 to 3:30 PM... Hear true stories from patients and legal authorities most affected by the sometimes arbitrary enforcement of law... City Councilman Nick Licata, King County Councilman Larry Gossett, and a message from a sponsor of medical marijuana legislation, Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles.

Seattle contact numbers:
Joanna McKee 206-762-0630
Martin Martinez 206-930-9688
Vivian McPeak 206-522-0846

Marijuana patients are promoting a benefit concert on May 3. Panda Conspiracy and Galaxy Machine will donate their time and positive vibrations to help raise funds for legal defense casework in Washington State.

Cascadia NORML and CannabisMD present:
Panda Conspiracy and Galaxy Machine
Sodo Pop dance club
2424 1st Avenue South, Seattle
7 p.m., May 3, 2008

This is a benefit to Liberate Marijuana and raise money and awareness to help medical marijuana patients reform the unjust laws.

Buy tickets for the marijuana benefit here; donation only 20 bucks!:

$20 donation includes membership in NORML, the nation's leader in reforming marijuana laws!

For more information on the benefit show, contact Danielle:

More than 238 cities are protesting marijuana prohibition May 3, 2008.


For information on the march nearest you:

Thursday, May 1, 2008

R.I.P., Tim Garon. You Won't Be Forgotten.

In the days since I started writing about Tim Garon, who was denied a liver transplant because of his doctor-recommended use of legal medical marijuana, I've received a lot of messages from a lot of people.

But none of them has meant more to me than this:

"My name is Andy Garon. I am Tim's brother.

Thank you, alapoet, for your kindness and your support...

Keep Following Your Passion!!!"

I heard from Andy again, a little while ago; he sent me another message to let me know that Tim died peacefully this afternoon, his son Lennon at his side. "Now Tim has peace," Andy wrote. "His music and lyrics speak for themselves."

In one of those rich ironies and unbelievable coincidences of life, as I'm sitting here, crying at the keyboard, trying to find words to do Tim justice, I just this moment got another email. This one is from Laura Garon, Tim's former wife and mother of his son Lennon.

"I wanted to thank you for what you wrote on the Reality Catcher site about Tim. Tim passed away today. I thought that you might want to know. I'm his ex-wife and mother of his son, and ironically today is also my birthday. I guess that Tim wanted to make sure that our son, Lennon would not forget this day!

If you knew Tim, you would know that he probably wanted it that way....he was still making jokes and wise-cracking when I saw him last week. There are so many people who will miss him..."

Laura, it’s funny — I’m tempted to say cosmic — that I heard from you at this particular moment.

Thanks for sharing a little of the Tim you knew with me.

It makes me sad that I never got the opportunity to know Tim. Life is funny, isn’t it? Now that he’s gone, it seems as if he brought so many people together with a unity of purpose. And more people than ever are discovering his wonderful music and words... His dream of reaching a mass audience, I think, is finally coming true.

It feels strange for me to be wishing you a happy birthday on a day like this. But, yes: Happy birthday.

I’m sure you feel a little as I feel right now: Newly aware of the preciousness and fragility of life (like Tim, I have Hepatitis C), and also of life's incredible strangeness. And of its richness and beauty and mystery.


I posted yesterday about how the University of Washington Medical Center Transplant Division has frantically backpedaled away from their earlier admission that Tim's medical marijuana use was the real reason for their denial of his liver transplant. Rather than answer my emails himself, the head of the Transplant Division, Dr. Jorge Reyes, had his "communications specialist" send me an email desperately trying to spin their heartless decision into something defensible.

Of course, they're not fooling anyone; their removal of Tim from the transplant list is nothing but a moral judgment masquerading as a medical decision.

Since I made that post, I've heard from a friend who actually sat in a meeting two months ago with a Harborview liver specialist who made it clear Tim's "illicit drug use" was the reason for the transplant denial.

"I about flipped the fuck out when she said that, my friend told me. "As a Washington state employee she has a responsibility to be aware of our laws and that there was NOTHING illicit about Tim's medical cannabis use - which I also note was DISCONTINUED months earlier in an attempt to appease the bastards...

"...They thought his bust was an indicator that he had a 'marijuana drug problem' (of course they never gave him a drug evaluation or assessment so once again they were talking out their ass) and had an 'addictive personality'... also to note Tim hadn't used cannabis when they made it clear he cannot and still get a transplant (so much for an addictive personality)...

"What I REALLY don't understand is how they can look into the eyes of man knowing he is dying and be so cold. That scares the crap out of me... there's something just real fucked with these folks' interiors. The rage I feel inside about this..... I wanted to picket the doctors' homes and shame them in front of their neighbors..."

There was one small light, according to my friend: "The interns were soulful and on the ball... a number of them regularly stopped in to not only see Tim but give him support - two of them shared their feelings with me about their disgust at UW/Harborview."


Those of us to whom compassion is important can never forget Tim Garon and his brave fight for a second chance at life with a new liver -- only to be cruelly denied for using the legal medical marijuana that his doctor recommended.

This is barbaric. This is a travesty of justice. Those responsible should be ashamed of themselves, and should turn in their medical qualifications because they aren't practicing medicine anymore. They are practicing the ugliest kind of judgmental hypocrisy, and don't deserve to work in the healing profession anymore. Shame on you, Dr. Jorge Reyes, and to all those involved in this horrible decision.


Why is making moral judgments upon people more important to some "healers" than saving lives?

Why is the use of a legal, doctor-recommended and approved medicine called "illicit drug use"?

Why did Tim Garon have to spend his last months on earth worrying about his legal problems (he was actually arrested for growing his own medicinal marijuana, and then denied his liver transplant on the basis of that arrest), in addition to his failing health?

Timothy Garon, peace be with you, wherever you are.

Know that I will not stop speaking out. I will not stop trying to change these things, to make them better, as long as there is life in my body.